David Lauderdale

Help wanted and the $500K gift: Eight ways you won’t forget 2018 in Beaufort County

Snow falls on the beach of Hilton Head Island

Subtropical Hilton Head Island, S.C. experienced its first significant snowfall since December 1989 on Wednesday when about an inch of the white stuff came down. Here's the scene at Coligny Beach as the snow begins to fall.
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Subtropical Hilton Head Island, S.C. experienced its first significant snowfall since December 1989 on Wednesday when about an inch of the white stuff came down. Here's the scene at Coligny Beach as the snow begins to fall.

Note: This story was updated to correct the anniversary year of the Friends of Hunting Island.

This has been a year of fire and ice.

Ice poured down on Beaufort County in January — and actually hung around for five days. Few expect to see anything like it again in their lifetime.

As for the fire, businesses felt heat like never before to simply keep the doors open due to a lack of workers, particularly on Hilton Head Island.

Following are eight ways 2018 will be remembered in Beaufort County.

Problems

Workforce: “The whole island is a disaster zone right now,” Steve Carb, president of the SERG Restaurant Group on Hilton Head, said in a Washington Post article in May. “It’s been a nightmare.”

The restaurant group scaled back its usage of the Poseidon Rooftop Bar and had to close sections of Skull Creek Dockside at times this season, due to not having enough employees to provide quality service.

Housing: In a survey released this spring, 63 percent of respondents said they had trouble finding a suitable place to live in Beaufort County. Demand for nearly every housing type and price point in every area of the county is going to rise as the county continues to expand in the coming years, the study said. It is an acute issue for the Hilton Head workforce.

Traffic: Absolute gridlock hit the south end of Hilton Head this summer. It was so bad during an August construction project that then-Mayor David Bennett called the cops.

Milestones

Airport: Hilton Head Island Airport’s extended runway opened after decades of bickering, with regional jets replacing turboprops on commercial flights and more connections planned for 2019.

Boundary Street: The $33 million streetscape project on the gateway to Beaufort — decades in the making — was finished.

The city of Beaufort has completed the $33 million Boundary Street improvement project.

Heritage: The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing PGA Tour golf tournament on Hilton Head marked its 50th edition, celebrating more than $30 million given to charity by turning the Harbour Town Lighthouse’s cherry-red stripes into Heritage plaid.

Hunting Island: The Friends of Hunting Island organization marked 25 years of enhancing the state park, one of the most popular attractions in the county and state.

March of time

USCB: The University of South Carolina Beaufort opened a $24.5 million campus on Hilton Head on the site of the old Sea Pines corporate offices, where bright minds transformed the island into a place that could one day have a college campus.

USCB will open their Hilton Head Island campus building to students and the public on Nov. 26, 2018

Tinsel Town: It was 25 years ago that Tom Hanks photobombed the Beaufort wedding of Mary Dunning and David Chapman during filming of blockbuster “Forrest Gump.”

Closed: Among longtime businesses to call it a day was Stock Farm Antiques, opened in Bluffton by artist Naomi McCracken in 1953 and run for many years by her son, Emmett McCracken and his wife, Teddy. On Hilton Head, Nancy Voegele closed her Pink House Gallery after 34 years.

People

Poona Ford: He was said to be too small to play football after starring for the Hilton Head Island High School Seahawks, but he was the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year at the University of Texas before landing a starting job with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL.

Deacon James Garfield Smalls: The 98-year-old St. Helena Island native was honored by the state for keeping alive the fading Gullah spirituals of his youth.

St. Helena Island resident James Garfield Smalls, 98, sings a spiritual on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, one of many in his repertoire. Smalls is to be recognized by the South Carolina Arts Commission with the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award.

Driftwood: A tantalizing Beaufort mystery was solved this year when Gibbes McDowell wrote “Driftwood Unmasked: The Legend and the Man.” Now we know the real story of the boozy raconteur of the 1950s and 60s, known as “Driftwood” for the art he made of natural objects found near his shack on Harbor Island.

SnowballDM01.jpg
The replica of “Snowball,” the albino dolphin captured near St. Helena Sound, front, has returned for good to the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center after the organization purchased the model from its owner, Kevin Vanacore. Pictured with Snowball is Sonny Boy, her calf, that was captured with her in 1962 and taken to the Miami Seaquarium. Drew Martin dmartin@islandpacket.com

Snowball: This albino dolphin is not a person, but she was quite a figure at the Miami Seaquarium after being captured in the wild near St. Helena Sound in the 1960s. The capture stirred a controversy that led to the earliest sea mammal protections in America and was told in Pat Conroy’s book “Prince of Tides.” A model of Snowball and her gray pup, including actual parts of Snowball, was placed on permanent display at the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center in Okatie.

Environment

Plastic bags: Most single-use plastic bags were banned in Beaufort County and its municipalities this year — an effort to keep them from harming wildlife.

Offshore drilling: Beaufort County government leaders remained united against offshore exploration for oil and gas, fighting a move by President Donald Trump to open it. The issue is believed to be the deciding factor in the local congressional race, with Joe Cunningham becoming the first Democrat to represent the 1st District since 1981.

We asked these Lowcountry residents for their opinion on offshore drilling at a forum on the subject sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Coastal Conservation League at the Hilton Head Library on Feb. 1. Here's what they had to say.

Snowmageddon: Beaufort County was blanketed with 3 to 5 inches of snow, and its streets and bridges covered with ice, in a January weather phenomenon the likes of which had not been seen since 1989.

Open space: Beaufort County voters handily approved $25 million for the county’s Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program, which this year facilitated the purchase of a significant park site on the Beaufort River at Whitehall on Lady’s Island.

Hurricane Florence: The county was evacuated for Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina.

Passings

Deaths: Among the many contributors to life in Beaufort County to die this year were Henry C. Chambers, former Beaufort mayor; W. Brantley Harvey Jr., former state lieutenant governor; Joe Mix, “Mister Boys & Girls Club”; Gene Hood, longtime county public defender.

Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of the Volunteers in Medicine clinics; Hilton Head Gullah community leader Veronica Miller; John J. “JJ” Harter, an early Hilton Head fire service leader and head of town emergency preparedness; Thomas Norby, a longtime Sea Pines executive; Tom Wamsley, co-founder of the The Island Packet.

Bryan Bobinchuck - the father of 11-year-old Charli who was struck and killed on a Hilton Head crosswalk in June — spoke at a council meeting about a proposal he has for a new crosswalk lighting design. He says it's time they "do what's right."

Arts and advertising leader John David Rose; Hilton Head orchestra leader Gloria Daly; and 11-year-old Charli Bobinchuck, killed in a Hilton Head crosswalk, a tragedy that made improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on the island a major issue.

So long

Retirement plan: Among the many contributors to life in Beaufort County to announce retirements this year are Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation; Cindy Baysden, director of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust; Nan Johnson, who cheerily greeted the public on the phone or at the front desk at the Hilton Head Town Hall for 34 years; Betsy Doughtie, director of the Deep Well Project on Hilton Head for 22 years; Al Stokes, head of the Waddell Mariculture Center, where he had worked since 1979; and Tony Criscitiello, longtime head of the county planning department.

Right thing to do

Guardian angel: An anonymous donor gave $500,000 to the Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton to pay off its mortgage.

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